Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Protein Question

My kids love vegetables.  I mean LOVE LOVE LOVE them.  CJ gets upset if we don't have a salad each day.  They like chicken, and hamburger and steak.  I am always worried about getting enough protein in them, and of course Rich and I should be eating less carnivorously.  Not being a vegetarian myself, I am unsure of how to get the proper amount of protein from plants.  We are always willing to try new foods, I am just unfamiliar as to what would constitute an appropriate protein. What are your suggestions? 


  1. Having been both a vegan and a vegetarian for the last 18 odd years or so, getting enough protein is something that I've done alot of thinking about for sure! One of the basic mistakes you can make as a vegetarian or vegan is relying too much on soy products for protein. The "fake veggie meats" are very tempting and easy (and in some cases when you eat out etc, the only option for vegetarian protein).. BUT they are not a good "complete" protein source and soy in general has come under a lot of fire recently for the abnormal amounts of estrogen it contains.. That being said they are good in a pinch, but do not overuse them. I actually cannot have soy anymore, it started making me nauseous about 8 years ago, so I find my protein else where.

    Also, even though I used to be a vegan, I do not recommend it for young children or anyone who isn't willing to commit to the lifestyle fully... it is very difficult, almost impossible to eat out and requires a hypervigilance that I found ultimately exhausting.

    So, I guess currently you could call me a lacto ovo vegetarian, or one that eats eggs and dairy, but no meat products or fish. The best sources of protein that I eat regularly are eggs, dairy products (cottage cheese is fantastic in that you can get it lowfat or non fat and it is still full of protein), whole grains, nuts (although I don't eat these much anymore with Max's allergies), beans, rice, peas, lentils and seitan based products (basically vital wheat gluten, a good non-soy quick fix protein).

    To get the most complete proteins and the best bang for your buck, avoid anything that says it is 12 grain in favor of full whole wheat... and even among whole wheat breads, pasta and crackers some are better protein sources than others. Beware that some breads that claim to be high protein are actually supplementing with soy protein to buff themselves up.

    Unfortunately vegetables in a general sense are often not good sources of protein, except maybe peas and obviously beans, lentils etc.

    Anyway, that is a general overview, I've run out of time to write anymore right now, but I'm sure I'll think of more soon!

  2. Thank you, that helps a lot. Since we make all our own breads, using high quality whole grains that is a benefit, and we have been trying to sneak more beans in. Luckily the kids love hummus, and so do I. I actually made a bread using leftover hummus, I should post it. While I don't want to encourage or discourage the kids from being vegan or vegetarian I find that they would prefer plant to animal foods. CJ finally is liking eggs on their own, but Eliza still doesn't care for them. They eat a lot of cheese, and like cottage cheese, but I didn't think about that as a protein source. Thank you!

  3. Cottage cheese, greek yogurt, and seitan are some great easy sources of protein that I use all the time.. Try a brand called "Field Roast", they make seitan sausages, fake deli-meats etc, that I love and are really easy!

  4. And yeah, I agree with you that kids need to make their own decisions about being vegetarian etc. I made the decision before Max was born not to impose my choices on him about this. Although, he ends up eating vegetarian stuff alot, mostly because I never learned how to cook meat!

  5. In addition to all of the above options that I am totally in favor of, Tempeh is another great protein option with 41% of the daily protein value in only 4 ounces. Tempeh is a soy product, so if you are not already including a bunch of soy, then this is a good pick. I, too, am a fan of limiting the amount of soy intake and "fake veggie meats." My spouse picked up some Morning Star bacon in a pinch the other day, and I was just reading the label today and it has all kinds of dyes and other junk. We have to watch for supposive "healthy" products.

    One way to sneak more beans in, since they love hummus, is to make a black bean or white bean hummus. They are both really good and packed with protein. Or, you could puree some white beans with a little salt, pepper, garlic, and lemon (if they like lemon) and mix it with some shredded cheese and make them a quesadilla or grilled cheese. My little guy loves that and can never tell the difference.

  6. Huh, what a good idea, I never would have thought to add cheese to a bean mixture to make a grilled cheese with... I will see if Max will eat it!

  7. That is brilliant, they love all those things. They will actually suck on a lemon for awhile, so I have to be careful, as the acid is bad for their teeth. But they love quesadillas, and all types of beans so that would be a perfect thing for them. That and some veggie sticks and I have got an instant lunch, that we all love!

  8. Max actually ate the grilled cheese! I am so happy! I took black eyed peas, garlic powder, minced onion, salt, pepper and some aged cheddar cheese and fried it up... even Josh ate it!!

    Thanks Erica!